16th April 2019

Say goodbye to greenbelt

Last week, we attended the Insider’s Midlands Residential Property Breakfast, where Tim Allen, Midlands director for land development at consultant PBA, said the greenbelt was “utterly broken as a policy.”

Key points from the discussion were:

  • Greenbelt should be scrapped to allow thousands of extra homes to be built in the region (26,500 homes were built in the Midlands last year, less than 50% of the amount needed to meet demand)
  • Greenbelt results in workers being forced to live a long way from workplaces, impacting on their quality of life and the quality of the greenbelt
  • Meaningful greenbelt land release is required alongside better development of brownfield land
  • Central government needs to lead the changes. The £350m government-funded West Midlands Housing Deal, aimed at remediating brownfield land and creating infrastructure, has not gone far enough
  • Planning restrictions should be lifted if problematic former industrial sites can be converted to residential use.

 

The findings of this discussion echo my experiences of planning in recent years. Last year, we were instructed to sell a commercial/research and development site consisting of over 200,000sq ft of buildings and that had been empty for over two years after the company that occupied it went into administration.

The site is over 10 miles from the motorway and 15 miles from a major town. It bordered a small village surrounded by green belt, so not considered sustainable, especially given that new industrial sites are available on the motorway closest to the site.

The local authority insisted the site had to remain in its current use as a key employment site. As the site needed to be purchased un-conditionally, with the planners outright refusing to support a change of use, this became a risky high-cost purchase that would have had to go to appeal.

Consequently, the site still remains empty and is becoming increasingly dilapidated.

A change of mindset and policy is fundamental to the government delivering on its new homes targets. I am in support of the notion that a policy of ‘green wedges’, that sit between transport routes, would allow people to access green areas and live closer to work. Brownfield sites should not be held back from redevelopment just because they are located in greenbelt areas.

Blog by Leon Evans, Managing Director

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